Posts tagged gratitude

What a Year It’s Been

I’m baaaaacckkkk!!!

Okay – I know the difference between a bad blogger, a good blogger and a great blogger is the frequency with which they post.

I am admitting – I have been a bad blogger.

I have not concentrated on writing – I have let ever single thing in my life distract me from the purpose of this blog. The very focus of this blog was to acknowledge the ironic twist one’s imagination can lead their thought process and life to. 2015 has been one of those years that has proven to expand my imagination; make me question the past, enjoy the present and be excited about the future, even as I hit the milestone 50th birthday!

The last post I made was about “The Meatball Experience”. We had a fun day with food, great company and wine!! My mom imparting her skewed side of the world and her meatballs, my cousins easing nicely into our old comfort zone (or maybe new comfort zone as we have rarely been able to spend time together as adults). That day was shortly after one of my posts “Oy Vey! Only Two Years Away”.

Well, the blink of an eye has happened and here we are two years later. I am on a flight to Miami marking my third trip down to the Sunshine State this year. I have been working with a business coach,one who is helping me figure out what I want to be when I grow up (ha-ha!) – someone who has made me look at the things that I have done throughout my fifty years on this earth and realize that I can work with others to bring about change in their businesses and help them create events, strengthening their personal brands.

I have tried to leave my pessimistic self at the door. My mantra hasn’t changed much but I don’t think it’s “I hate people” it’s more “I hate stupidity”!

I am continually happy that God gives me another day. Another day to appreciate things, people, circumstances, whatever. I can no longer pat my puppy on the top of his head; my Bailey plays with his Grandpa again since he crossed over that Rainbow Bridge in May. The news still stinks everyday – watching it becomes a trial in keeping panic attacks in check.
Then the day happens. Thankfully, the day happens.

My mom is now being well taken care of after she broke bones in her back in June of 2014; she made a decision to permanently reside in a facility in her Astoria neighborhood. We packed up, cleaned out and sold a home that had been in my family for 64 years. The uncle who had meant the world to me as a child passed away and letting go of angst that had come between us seemed the right thing to do. After a twenty-two year run, my partner and I have decided to close our businesses down – as I have always said, it’s fun when things are going right but when things go wrong, boy do they ever! Superstorm/Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy knocked the wind out of our sails and we never really recuperated fully. One of my childhood heroes, my cousin, Theresa, suffered from the ravages of ovarian cancer and succumbed to this terrible disease within months.

Amazing things have happened also.

I applied and was accepted into the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program in July of 2014. I met the best group of “Cohortians” (as I called them) and benefitted from many of their experiences, our instructors and our business advisors. Graduation in December 2014 gave me a new perspective on business, my direction and what I needed to do moving forward. I received a Certificate of Entrepreneurship from LaGuardia Community College and Goldman Sachs and also completed a business college course of study giving me a Certificate in Management Consulting. Opportunities presenting themselves in the strangest places (or right in front of you); I am a “Lord-Mechanic-Accumulator” and am embracing my strengths and running with them.

I am creating a new business opportunity for myself and will be helping other small business owners steady their foundations and move forward to build their businesses and brands.

My partner and I bought a beautiful home in a wonderful neighborhood and are looking forward to welcoming family and friends for wonderful dinners and backyard pool parties for years to come. We can finally have our moms come to a house that is more easily accessible for them and we can’t wait to see what the next fifty years have in store. I have closer friends, more relaxed days, more ever expanding experiences. I’ve become a “Networker” (VP now President of our BNI Chapter), I’ve become a consultant and, not to be forgotten, “The Third Twin” (blog post with an explanation to follow later).

But taking stock of things, as my birthday gets closer, I have to be grateful for many things. Although I make many a joke about being placed in a reed basket and floated down the Nile (or East River), I am the person I am today – slightly cracked, a wealth of useless information, a business owner, someone you can ask for anything, supporter of many (whether they realize it or not), critical of some but one who knows when they are out of their league. I believe in open-mindedness. I believe in education. Flowers winning over guns; candles to remember those lost; feeling safe again when everyone in the world remembers we are all the same. Love can and does conquer all.

This year, I am thinking definitely and positively. And instead of “Let’s see where this will take me”, how about this…

“Don’t believe me? Just watch!!!”

The Meatball Experience

…or more aptly titled, “The Day of 1,000 Meatballs”!

The best day ever!

Home cooked meatballs with family!

 

Those of you that follow this blog know that my Aunt Flo passed away in May 2013. We celebrated my Aunt’s life, remembering her with stories and jokes and reminiscing of all of our collective memories of and with her. A lit of wine and tears but it was a true celebration.

At that time, my cousin Colleen asked my mother if she would teach her how to make her mother’s meatballs – my Aunt Flo and my mom had a few recipes in their repertoires – their meatballs being a shared one. My mom agreed and we planned to schedule the “Meatball Fest”.

This past Saturday, we drove to my cousins’ home down the Jersey shore with all the Brooklyn fixings for a pasta and meatball (sauce included) feast; picked my mom up on the way.

It was one of the best days ever!

My mom was throwing her “weight” around, telling my cousins and me what to do.  Jokes flying back and forth – “You haven’t cooked in fifteen years, how are you going to tell us how to make meatballs?”  John made sure my mom had a “cold beer” at her fingertips, staying cold in a wine chiller as she gave us direction and sampled the fixings.  “Not enough of this…”, “Too much garlic”, “Cook them longer” – she was full of them!  We stood around mixing the ingredients, rolling the meatballs they way our mothers and grandmother had, the “men folk” hung around, waiting for something to eat.  “I knew I needed something… oh yeah, more wine” was heard throughout the day.

The neat thing was this…

We spent time as we had when things were simpler, less busy and more fun.  My family always knew how to do things with great “heart”.  When we laughed, we laughed heartily.  When we fought, we fought the good fight.  But we could always come together and enjoy each other’s company.  And we could have fun like no one else.

My mom said many times during the course of the day, “It’s not easy”.  She is usually referring to putting up with me teasing her or telling her to “be nice”.  All in good fun but she likes to tell people that it isn’t easy for the sake of conversation.  It was easy this Saturday family get-together; albeit some of our missing family members, my dad and Colleen & Pat’s mom, but we knew they were there.  My cousin spoke of a trip to Italy and waiting for a sign from her mom to let her know that it was all right for her to be where she was and to enjoy herself. – her husband pointed out a street sign that gave direction to another town they were near. “Guadagno”, which was our grandmother’s maiden name – sign enough for all of us.

I don’t know if anyone else saw the same sign I did but as I sat at the dinner table for a bowl of pasta with a few meatballs, I thought of how simple things would be if everyone just took a day, did something they never did before with people they haven’t spent enough time with in forever.  You begin to see each other in a different light – with everything else stripped away, just a good old time, wine and meatballs for all!

I Sound Like My Mother…

mom

Actually, I think I sound more like any of my grandparents!

I was raised in a three-generation home – the kind that the Amish are known for, but the rest of the immigrant population that settled in the Northeast at the turn of the last century chose, not because it was the best thing to do, but because necessity is the mother of invention (or at least, giving everyone a home).

My mother’s parents lived in the first floor apartment of the home my grandfather bought.  He immigrated from Bari, Italy and my grandmother from Naples.  They were set-in-their-ways Italian: family, work and food.  My father’s father died before I was born but I knew who he was from the stories everyone told.  He and my father’s mother emigrated from Gibraltar (yes, the Rock; “Gib” as we descendents call it).  They were set-in-their-ways Spanish/British/Gibraltarians: family, work and food.

Every one of them worked hard.  Mostly laborer-type jobs, nothing glamorous, just hard work.  Pop in a paper mill, Mom in household job like sewing and such; Poppa was a laborer at many different places and my Grams, she had one of the best jobs ever – she worked for Loft’s Candies, as a packager – I think of the “I Love Lucy” episode with the candy conveyor belt and the shouts of “Speed it up, Harry!” every time I think of her!  They all worked hard, rested when they could, enjoyed family and good food and were happy.  I don’t believe one of them ever set foot on a college campus, never mind take classes; some may have even gotten a high school diploma (or its equivalent).  But they knew so many, many things!  And it all seemed to just be knowledge they had – how to cook, how to take care of the house (inside for the women, outside for the men), how to build things, how to take them apart; painting, singing, joke telling and more.  No one ever wondered how he or she was going to make it in this world.

They all raised children who “enjoyed a better life than they did” as the saying goes.  Whether it was working for a big supermarket as a butcher (a job with great benefits and a steady paycheck), working as a “Bill of Lading” clerk in the garment district, a business manager for a township in New Jersey, a service manager for a refrigeration company or an employee of UNESCO – all of their children worked, knew what needed to be done and got the job done – providing for their families, acquiring homes and sending every one of their children to college – they knew what to do and got it done.

My first cousins and I all had the benefit of graduating from colleges and universities on the East Coast.  A CPA, three teachers, corporate middle management and two business owners in the lot.  We were taught from our grandparents and parents to be responsible, to pay attention, to learn, to work hard and make them proud.  We succeed, albeit with setbacks along the way, but our history taught us how to deal with those setbacks and push on.

Today, I spoke to one of the many “young-ens” that I have had the pleasure of employing over the last twenty years.  When I heard him say, “Basically, my generation is screwed”, I felt compelled to write this little post but felt a stronger urge to ask the readers out there a question or two.  I hope you will take the time to answer and give me some feedback – yes, I need to know your age but only for perspective and what you think.

So in a few words in the comments, let me know your “around-about” age, and answer these three questions:

1.  How does a person get one’s “character”?

2.  Do you think your generation has learned from the past?

3.  Do you agree with twenty-somethings today being on the short end of the stick?  And in what areas, exactly?

4.  Any suggestions on a possible “fix”?

I appreciate the time you may decide to take – I’ll let you know in follow up posts where everyone stands!!

Oy vey – Only Two Years Away!

It's that time of the year!!

It’s that time of the year!!

 

Today is my 48th birthday. So far, it’s a good day!

And being my usual pessimistic self, I’m sure it won’t stay that way.

You know those e-cards everyone posts on Facebook? There’s one I find particularly funny and way too true – “I try to like people, but then idiots happen!”.

Why is that??

I wake up everyday but especially on a day like my birthday and really am happy that God gave me another day. I know the big 5-0 is right around the corner.  Another day to appreciate things, people, circumstances, whatever. I pat my puppy on the top of his head, I think about breakfast and what there is in the house and I stop to think about my schedule for the day. Nothing ever stays on schedule but it’s worth the ol’ college try.

Then the day happens.

The news always provides something you have to shake your head at. Sometimes it’s an unexpected phone call. Being a small business owner, a text from a staff member can do it. Being responsible for my mother at this point in her life is always a challenge.

But taking stock of things, today, on my birthday, I have to be grateful for many things. Although I make many a joke about being placed in a reed basket and floated down the Nile, I am grateful my birth mother saw it in her heart to give me a chance for a better life. I am grateful for my parents – the only one’s I have ever known. I am grateful for my cousins who have always made things interesting. I am thankful for my friends, old and new, not so new and those who are no longer part of my life. I am even thankful for the people who have made my life challenging. All these people along with the experiences I have had, have come together to make me the person I am today – slightly cracked, a wealth of useless information, a business owner, someone you can ask for anything, supporter of many (whether they realize it or not), critical of some but one who knows when they are out of their league.

Just for the record, I had one of the best birthday days I have ever had. I spent the day enjoying everything as opposed to waiting for the next shoe to drop. The day was capped off with a wonderful martini, a perfectly cooked steak and wonderful company at a great Manhattan restaurant. Enjoyed the day thoroughly, however, I am sure realty will return tomorrow as always.

But maybe, just maybe, I can take the lesson of my birthday day through to the rest of the year – this year, I’ll be thinking positively. Let’s see where it takes me!

 

Chosen to Belong – Questioning Who’s Who in a Family

The title of this post took quite a number of revisions. “The Strangest Strangers: Becoming Part of a Family”, “Belonging and not…”, “You’re Not One of Us”.

Truth be told, I have been mind-boggled by things I have heard over the last thirty something years of my life. If only people could understand how their words could cut so deep that forgetting is not possible, forgiving may never occur.

Chosen to Belong

I was adopted through Catholic Charities from Angel Guardian Home in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York in May of 1966. This was a time before Roe v. Wade, open adoptions and all the other options available to people who wanted children but could not have them on their own.  For background, I was the only offspring of a union between my eighteen year-old birth mother and my thirty-six year old birth father. I like to make up a soap opera like story of how that union occurred, but that is fodder for another post sometime in the future. The nuns at the Angel Guardian Home put me into the arms of the only woman I know as my mother on April 26, 1966 – “the happiest day of my life” as she often tells me. Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and friends welcomed me home that day – the family that embraced me, loved me, shared in my triumphs and consoled me in my losses.

A piece of paper and a judge’s swoop of the pen and I belonged to my parents. The three of us made a cute little family; my extended family always a strong and active presence in my life. We lived in a two-family house – my parents and I upstairs and my mother’s parents downstairs. We saw each other everyday – always a kiss, a hug and a playful tap from “Pop”.

My grandmother passed away one night in 1973, in the house. My other grandmother was babysitting me upstairs as my mother was visiting my father who was in the hospital. “My wife, she no move” was the cry from Pop and with that, one member of our household was gone. Her suffering from Alzheimer’s was over. Pop would live many more years alone but filled his time sitting outside, talking to anyone who would pass, reading his Italian newspaper and listening to the Italian radio station. There had been arguing between my mom and her brother and sister over their parents and the long-term care they both needed. But what needed to be done was done as far as my grandparents were concerned and who was right and who was wrong is now irrelevant.

Pulling the Rug Out

But one question posed to my grandfather by his son threw my very existence in my family into a tailspin. My mother, middle child stayed home to care for her aging parents. Her sister and brother left most of the decisions and day-to-day care to my mom because of her proximity. As my grandfather reasoned, each of his children had their homes; my mother did not so he would leave his house to my mother. My uncle was told this by his father and reacted strongly; one question – “So Jane gets the house?”

His own daughters were outraged and told him so right as the words came out of his mouth. My mothers was stunned and as we, the kids, were told to get out of the room, someone said, “Because she’s not blood?”. I know who said it and would rather leave it as ambiguous as stated. Regardless, that question/statement had devastating consequences to an already fragile psyche.

I have had friends who ask me about being adopted. I tell them being adopted at such a young age, I know only my parents and my family – there is no feeling associated with “being adopted” for me. But there is an increasing sensitivity I feel towards comments being made toward individuals and their “belonging” in their families. To say that a person who has spent years, decades even a lifetime being “part” of a family is “not really part of the family” or even calling them “a stranger” is completely not in the realm of understanding.

There comes a point in time when you really have to wonder about the people you surround yourself with.  Although they may seem quite cordial and sincere on the outside, sometimes there are underlying issues that confuse event the most seasoned adult.  I have heard that young children entering into a new family with their divorced and remarrying parent are “not really so-and-so’s kid”.   Children adopted at younger ages than I was are “not really their kid”.  Family friends who have been part of people’s lives for years, even decades are told “they are not family”.   I have even heard some call their “married-in” relatives “nothing more than strangers”.

Are we not all strangers to each other in the beginning of any relationship?

Are you Serious? Then Get This Straight

A newborn is a stranger to their mother – the woman who carried that baby for nine months.  You are not in their minds, however impressionable they may be – you cannot know what is going on in there.  A woman meeting a new friend.  A man meeting a girl he would one day would like to make his wife.  Someone you pass on the street.  The person on line in the grocery store.  Yet these encounters with strangers lead to some of the most intense and lasting relationships we will ever have in our lives.  A child and parent, best friends, a married couple, a neighbor, an acquaintance.  At whatever level, these people enter our lives and it is a choice we must make as to the depth that relationship takes.

I know many children whose parents remarried after many years and created blended families.  Father is father to each one of the children in that family, mother is mother.  Some of those semi-adopted children (some are indeed adopted by their step-parent, others are not) actually become more of the family oriented member of the family, treasuring the relationships he or she was given a second chance at.  Adoption makes families where there were none.  There are plenty of people we all know that are part of a family by birth-rite not by anything greater than that.  That “natural born” status should never give anyone the power to diminish another’s standing in their’s or anyone else’s family.  I dare someone to state that an infant would know any difference in belonging, be he or she adopted or birthed into the family they wind up in.  Whether your husband-wife, wife-wife, or husband-husband relationship has children as part of it or not is unimportant – that “significant other” is just that “SIGNIFICANT” to that person; relevant, significant, meaningful, thought of, their one and only.

And everyone should really be on that same page – whether it is a step-child, a half-sister or brother, a friend, an integral part of a family for decades, your life partner – those that surround you should be respectful of you and that person and the relationship you feel is important.

 

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